e-city: Singapore loves its tech

The other day we sat ourselves down at a Japanese sushi bar and after waiting several minutes, I flagged down a harassed waitress to ask for menus. She wiggled an impatient finger at the leather-cased iPad tucked in at one end of the table before dashing off to sort out other customers. Oh, right. A restaurant floor can be manned by a sushi conveyor belt, a fleet of iPads and a minimal number of real live people.

Having just come from Edinburgh, we have really noticed the pervasiveness of technology in everyday life here. Supermarket shelves have little blinking digital tags which update the prices and special offers.

digital price tags

Traffic robots wave haplessly at impatient drivers, trying to control speeds around construction sites. The girls love breezing through the MRT (subway system) gates with a mere wave of a handbag (containing your EZlink enabled credit card) over a sensor pad.

mrt_cardsSome MRT stations even have device charging lockers in case your phone runs out of juice on the commute.


Photo credit: Singapore Power via Straits Times

When I’m out and about I probably see more electric scooters than kick scooters. Miss Chu is rather disdainful about these; Daddy Chu secretly wants one. And we’ve even noticed someone zip by on one of these crazy things:

A self-balancing scooter unicycle (S$949/£430). Can I get one of these to race the kids on the school run?

Recently, we visited a great exhibition called Interplay at the Singapore Science Centre, which explored how technology is changing the way we play. It involved a series of interactive exhibits, including the rather ingenious Sandbox Ocean, which kept Little Miss occupied for a very long time:


The blue and green colours projected on to the surface of the sand shift as you manipulate the landscape to indicate the changing peaks and valleys, and a wave of the hand generates cute projected sea creatures below. Hmm…here’s hoping she won’t find regular sandpits boring after this.

We also enjoyed prancing around in front of this interactive screen – an oldie but a goodie. A couple of grannies were dancing away with us which only added to the hilarity.

The girls played digital dressup with the aid of some pink post-its which could be used to “grab” accessories to try on.

And the best bit was Deep Space – a “multi-dimensional projection and experience domain” where you could walk around a 3D environment with special glasses on. At the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, one of the kids’ favourite exhibits is an interactive projection where you can design a fish on screen and see it “swimming” in the projected pond. In the Deep Space exhibit, the girls could similarly design a fish on screen, but were then able to see it swimming around them in 3D with their special glasses on. Needless to say, they were suitably impressed.


Photo credit: Ars Electronica Linz GmbH

Makes me wonder whether we shouldn’t even bother with a TV when we get the keys to our new flat. Perhaps I should be in the market for a 3D-enabled interactive projector. Or this looks pretty fun too! Yep…I’m getting giddy with all these flashing lights.


  1. You’ve got to get of those single wheel scooter things – then post videos as you try to ride it!

    • I saw one in a mall nearby but was too embarrassed to ask if I could give it a go! Perhaps I’ll have to nip back there on a quiet weekday morning when no one is watching.

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